Yesterday was an odd day. Once it got going, it seemed fractured, busy, filled with distractions and generally just a bit too much. It was difficult to maintain focus on the job interview scheduled in the afternoon, and I was fighting a sense that “I don’t want this!” that was also ‘unsourced’ and more a vague impression than a clear signal something was amiss…did I ‘not want’ the stress and distraction of waiting for the scheduled interview? Did I ‘not want’ the interview itself, the job, the opportunity… or something completely unrelated? I handled the day without regard to the sensation, and set it aside for later consideration. I expected the interview might go poorly, based on my state of mind going into it.

I was incorrect. The interview went very well. This proved to be equally problematic, frustratingly, because I found myself completely over-excited, like a kid going to a favorite theme park; the clue is in the feeling, and I recognized that much of the excitement was anticipatory, which also means it isn’t a feeling about things happening now, as much as the potential for things that have not yet occurred to occur in the future…which is also not super helpful in the moment I’m in. When I found myself escalating in emotional intensity very quickly, I went a step beyond enjoying the experience, and made room for the awareness that for me, this pleasurably intense experience also held great potential risk that when I ‘crashed’ from the delicious emotional cocktail, I could find myself unmanageably irritable or frustrated by something small, as well as more reactive than responsive (considering the existing highly reactive, though pleasant, state of being at the time). What to do?

There was a time when my understanding of managing emotional highs and lows was that it required me to cut off the highs, because it was a necessary byproduct of any attempt to cut off the lows; the basics of Rx mood management using existing pharmaceuticals sometimes relies on this unfortunate trade-off. Sadly, I didn’t find the strategy particularly effective. I still had the highs and lows. The lows were still… yeah… okay, let’s not talk about the lows just now. The highs, while they felt pretty splendid to me, were not necessarily always comfortable for loved ones or coworkers, and nearly always put me at greater risk of ‘saying the wrong thing’. I was still very volatile and reactive, still prone to horrible tantrums, prolonged crying jags, confrontational levels of irritability…and on those medications, although the difficult days were somewhat less difficult, and possibly less frequent…so were the good days both less enjoyable, and less frequent. It wasn’t working for me…and mid-way through 2013, my strategy had changed/was changing a lot, in favor of learning to be more mindful, and to treat myself with greater care and consideration. It has changed a lot of things for me. It changed my yesterday.

Still the most powerful Rx for treating the chaos within...

Still the most powerful Rx for treating the chaos within…

Yesterday, feeling the surging excitement and finding myself restless, filled with nervous energy I struggled to harness productively, and concerned by the potential for my mood to crash suddenly, I put myself on pause and emailed my partner that I’d be going offline for awhile and difficult to reach (good expectation-setting prevents needless worry). I practiced the one and (currently) only practice that addresses an escalated state of over-enthusiasm, child-like extreme excitement, and eagerness run amok and becoming chaos; I took a seat on my meditation cushion, no distractions, no agenda, no music, no plans. I meditated. Nothing fancy; I focused on my breath, and brought my mind back each time it wandered, with patience and genial contentment, and without frustration. I failed a lot. I began again each time. My mind would wander. I’d reel it back in. I fussed and fidgeted. I calmed myself and began again. It works. It’s easier over time. In this case, easier over about 2 hours time, which I followed with a leisurely soak in a deep hot bath with Epsom salts. (Looking back on that, reversing the order may have been a more efficient choice…)

It wasn’t as if there weren’t things I could be doing. Now I could do them. I finished off the tasks I’d planned for the day, and enjoyed a gentle evening, having regained a sense of perspective and calm. I smile now, thinking that there are no doubt people who would balk at the mere suggestion that meditation might take 2 hours of time out of the evening, or away from their family, or any number of other reasons it’s too much time to invest in one’s self… but… 2 hours? The length of a movie? The amount of time typically consumed watching back to back TV shows that won’t even linger in memory? Seriously? And for pharmaceutical-free mood management and mental health support? Seems worth it to me. (What do I know? I am not an educated mental health professional. I’m not a scientist, or clinician. It’s an opinion, relevant entirely to my own experience… Your results may vary. Mine do. But… seems worth trying. Maybe trying again.)

The evening wasn’t fancy, but it also wasn’t broken. It was a lovely quiet one. I enjoyed the evening as it began to wind down.

Yesterday's sunshine.

“The Alchemyst” blooming in yesterday’s sunshine.

This morning I woke gently, and without much pain. It seems an ordinary and pleasant morning. I smile noticing that those two qualities are now paired in my experience day-to-day: ordinary and pleasant. I’m not sure when that change occurred. “When” doesn’t matter as much as that it is a thing that exists now. Incremental change over time is worth the practicing, worth the self-care, worth the attention to details that matter to no one but me in the moment – and it’s worth being patient for. There are still verbs involved. I know I’ll likely still have difficult dark days when I struggle to choose well, even when I see the choice that will serve me best spelled out in front of me. I’ll begin again. No doubt it will be necessary to begin again sometime after that, too. It’s ‘practice’ because there is no ‘perfect’; it is the nature of journeys to continue. I’m okay with that. 🙂

Walking my own path, one step at a time.

Walking my own path, one step at a time.

I don’t know what today holds… Most likely it will be enough. 🙂